SEO Tools and Uses (and abuses)

March 11, 2006

Topics: Search Marketing.

Although I am a firm believer that effective search engine marketing is more about organically developing a site’s content and building a solid brand, at some point you always need to find a few numbers. Analysis tools can be used to tell you how a site stands before you begin work, and give you a sense for priorities.

Many elements of optimization are obvious from a glance, for the web professional – speed issues resulting from excessive scripting, large Flash files or too many graphics are frequently visible to the naked eye. You can often see problems with appropriate headings, alt tags, and code density by a quick glance at the source. However, seeing these elements and demonstrating their importance to a client are two very different tasks.

When the time comes to deliver your initial "state-of-the-website" report, including statistics, ranks, etc., can help provide something for the client to seize on which they understand. Technical terms aren’t really that help – as often as not, an explanation of a site’s information architecture problems results in severe cases of "glazed-eye-syndrome." Finding good tools to help you assemble these numbers is an important needs for the business.

There are literally hundreds of SEO tools (maybe thousands) sitting out somewhere on the web. There are expensive packages such as SEO Elite, clocking in at $167 versus the free edition of Web CEO. And a simple recommendation for any SEO software package? Don’t buy them. (I’m not saying that all SEO software is a scam – I just don’t recommend it.)

Why do I say this? Two reasons – first, analysis tools are only useful if you can take the data a step further and analyze it yourself. I have yet to see a tool which showed any comprehensive understanding of the data. Second, there is so much data available for free that I can’t recommend spending this kind of money.

Oh – and there’s a third reason. And it’s a kicker – one tool commonly offered by SEO software is the "auto-submission" option. A system to send your submissions out far and wide to thousands of search engines. I simply don’t trust this technique – I would rather carefully select appropriate and reliable directories and search engines and submit by hand, where this
activity is even relevant

Are there any advantages to buying SEO software? There can be. I’m not going to go into them extensively, but many of these software tools WILL provide a good analysis of your site, without your needing to run from page to page, learning new data formats and trying to assemble your analyses yourself. Some tools will help manage link building efforts by helping you find link partners and keeping track of your process. However, all SEO software needs to be taken with a sizable grain of salt.
Read this post at The Web Marketing Blog by Mark Daoust for a well-thought out and fair appraisal of the values of search engine optimization software.

This whole idea came to my attention because I read
this blog post
on a new Firefox
extension for SEO
. Although I got WAY off track in the actual post, this was the original intent behind this writing! The main tools I use for an initial site analysis are largely embedded in this tool bar – backlink checking from Google, Yahoo, and MSN are here. Alexa rankings, DMOZ checker, etc. For a basic appraisal of a site, this is a great place to start – it puts a whole range of analysis tools at your fingertips. (If you have a touch screen, that is . . .).

Links to a few sites with free SEO tools:

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